CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City boss John Comitis admits that, with Eric Tinkler the coach of SuperSport United, there’s a hint of payback in the air when the two clubs meet in the MTN8 final at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday (7pm kickoff).
City were only established as a club in June last year, but already they are in a second Cup final. Last season, with Tinkler as coach, the Cape team won the Telkom Knockout Cup when they beat SuperSport 2-1 in the final. Tinkler then left to join SuperSport this season.
This time, with Benni McCarthy in his first campaign as a head coach, City will be looking to continue their success in finals - it’s against SuperSport again, with Tinkler sitting on the opposing bench.
“There is a little niggle, that’s for sure,” said Comitis. "It’s not malicious or anything, because Eric (Tinkler) left amicably. But I think one the main reasons why he left City was because he perhaps thought that the team wouldn’t be able to sustain what they achieved in the first season. Well, we’ve certainly proved him wrong.”
As the days count down to Saturday’s final, City are holding thumbs that influential right-back Thamsanqa Mkhize returns fit and well from international duty with Bafana Bafana.
Mkhize performed excellently on debut for Bafana in a 3-1 win over Burkina Faso at the weekend, while teammate Robyn Johannes was on the bench.
Towards the end of the 2018 World Cup qualifier against the Burkinabe in Johannesburg, though, Mkhize picked up an injury. With Bafana having made three substitutes already, the defender was forced to hobble his way through the closing stages.
City are expecting their internationals - Mkhize, Johannes and Mozambican duo Jeitoso and Edmilson - back at training by Wednesday.
“There is a definite concern around Thami (Mkhize),” said Comitis. “He picked up a knock in the Bafana game and we are hoping that it’s not too serious.
“We are ready to go. Roland Putsche (Austrian midfielder) is back fit again and, if Thami’s okay, we will have a full complement available for selection. Last week, we tried not to think too much about the Cup final. We wanted to take the pressure off the players and then prepare in earnest this week.
“The City of Cape Town’s gesture in allowing us to use the Cape Town Stadium as a training venue to prepare for the final is fantastic. It allows the squad to prepare in a precise manner and to train properly.
"All of the players know what’s at stake. At the end of the day, it’s not only about the club, but about the exposure for each and every one of them. Rest assured, both Benni and I don’t have to worry about motivating the players.”
Comitis is also still mightily chuffed with the derby win over neighbours Ajax Cape Town last week. It was a third derby win on the trot for the Citizens - and Comitis emphasised that interest in the Cape rivalry had grown exponentially.
“The challenge now is to build the Cape derby into a major event,” said Comitis. “That will now be on the top of my priority list. We have to keep it interesting and keep people coming back.”